Can You Put a Carbon Bike on a Bike Rack?

Published by Bike Scientist on

Yes, you can put a carbon frame bike on a bike rack. But the rack should not make contact with the frame of the bike because it can lead to scratches. Many hitch and roof mount racks are compatible with carbon bikes because they hold the bike through the wheels. 

This article will discuss why carbon frames are prone to damage, which racks should be avoided, and which ones should be used. We have also suggested some racks that are available in the market and can be used to carry your valuable carbon bikes.

Also, find out the best-suited bike racks for e-bikes.

Why Are Some Racks Unfit for Carbon Bikes?

Carbon bikes are known to be durable and stronger than steel frames because of their high strength. However, if they are damaged, it is difficult to repair them because the spare parts are quite expensive. 

That is why it is recommended to prevent any damage or harm to the frame. And although the material is tough, these bikes are not resilient so they are easily damaged. Only a scratch can lead to cracks in the frame and the whole part fails. 

The carbon frame is built with successive carbon layers. And it is not purely carbon, to keep it intact, the top layer is a mixture of carbon and epoxy. And if this top layer is scratched, the frame might crack and weaken. 

So in terms of bike rack selection, you should avoid the racks that come in contact with the frame of a carbon bike. Moreover, bike racks that sway, lead to bikes coming in contact with each other or they collide into the rack. This can also damage the carbon frame. 

Platform Hitch Racks Without Frame Contact Are the Best Option

There are a lot of hitch bike racks that have a platform for the bike to sit and these racks prevent frame contact. Both tires of the bike are held through straps or wheel holders that keep the bike stable. 

They also make it easier to load and unload the bikes and provide easier access to the hatch or trunk. Moreover, unlike hanging racks, these racks are quite stable and do not let the bikes wobble or sway. 

Kuat NV Hitch Mount Rack for Carbon Frames

This rack is made for two bikes but it requires a trailer hitch for installation. Many users have a good experience with this rack specifically for carbon bikes because there is no frame contact. The issue only arises when you put the cable lock on bikes while traveling. 

While traveling the lock scratches the bike frame so you can avoid putting the lock on while driving. But if you stop somewhere and have to leave the bikes alone, you can put the cable lock back on. Other than that, the rack is great for carbon bikes because it holds them through the wheel holders.

Kuat NV
Kuat NV

RockyMounts Backstage Swing Away Carbon Bike Rack

The Backstage has some impressive features like swing-away and tilt-away features but most of all, it is completely contact-free. This rack has wheel cradles for the front and back wheels of the bikes. The front cradle is stationary while the rear cradle pivots for better adjustment of bikes with varying wheelbases. 

Moreover, it has ratcheting hooks that are attached to arms that stand upright and rest on the front wheels of bikes. This provides added stability to the bikes. And because these hooks grip the tire, there is no frame contact. 

Swing away platform of the Backstage
Swing away platform of the Backstage

Are Roof Racks Good for Carbon Bikes?

Roof racks have different types, some hold the bikes through the fork and require the removal of the front wheel. Others can be installed without that and hold the bike through the frame or wheels. Fork mount roof racks are usually contact-free and can be the best for your carbon bikes. 

These racks allow complete access to the hatchback and keep the bikes safe. Since carbon bikes are lighter, you can also raise them up the roof easily. However, you have to be careful about overhead clearance. 

Thule TopRide Fork Mount for Carbon Bikes

This is a fork mount rack that works for both quick-release and thru-axle bikes. You can get it at a good price and install it over your car if it has roof rails. For stability, it has plastic straps that go around the back wheel. Overall it is a good option for people who do not mind lifting the bike frequently.

Thule Topride
Thule Topride

Can You Put a Carbon Bike on a Bike Rack That Is Installed on the Trunk?

It is not recommended to go for trunk racks because they are usually built in hanging style. These racks hang the bikes in the cradles through the top tube. So if the cradles are not padded, they will scratch the top tube of the carbon bike.

One way to prevent scratches is by adding a padding material to the rack or the bike. You can get a foam packing or thick cloth and pack it into the areas that are at risk of coming in contact with each other. 

However, these hanging bike racks also sway and the bikes move while driving. Carbon bikes are lightweight and tend to sway more than heavier bikes. Thus they might crash into other bikes, in the case of a multi-bike rack, or into the rack. 

So you can only go for trunk racks that are platform-style. This means that the rack should have a platform for the bike to settle. Such racks do not grip the bikes through their frames. Instead, they secure the bikes through the wheels. 

Thule Outway Platform-style Trunk Rack for Carbon Bikes

This rack is made for two bikes and it is suitable for carbon frames because it holds the bikes through straps that go around the wheels. Unlike other trunk racks, the Outway platform included locks for the bikes as well as for the rack. 

Thule Outway
Thule Outway

However, it also has a clamp that holds the bike through the frame. So there is still a chance of damage. Without clamping, the bikes will not stay stable and would sway. But if you still want to get a trunk rack, there is no better option. Adding foam padding to the clamp can solve the issue. Read our detailed review of Thule Outway


Now that your confusion regarding ‘can you put a carbon bike on a bike rack’ is clear, you can select from the recommended racks. Otherwise, you can start searching for platform hitch mount racks or roof mount racks that are compatible with carbon bikes.

Categories: Uncategorized

Bike Scientist

S Chaudhry is the founder and the first writer for BikesRacks. He covers almost all the bike reviews after doing a lot of secondary and primary (hands on) research on the products. Apart from that he is the author of a number of how to do articles as well on the website. He is an avid road bike cyclists who is dealing in a lot of areas related to biking. Currently he has gained experience fixing bikes to retailing accessories related to them as well. His eventual goal is to build an authority site on cycling and also become a profession bike fitter.


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